A TSA explosives expert at JFK Airport in New York City prevented a possible mid-air disaster, after TSA officers spotted an "unusual suspicious item" inside a traveler’s carry-on bag earlier this month "that could have resulted in a tragic outcome had the item been carried onto an aircraft," the federal agency said Wednesday.
The bag was pulled and searched, and the item was determined to be "two large electronics wired to what appeared to be a tampered power source," the TSA said in a press release.
"It was deemed that the power component was hazardous because the passenger had tampered with and exposed multiple lithium batteries, which created a possible explosive device," read the release.
Officials then hunted down the passenger who said he had constructed a solar panel wired to the batteries to power his device because of the difficulties in finding batteries in the country he was ticketed to travel to.
The TSA did not say which country he was traveling to.
The TSA said the man was not permitted to travel with the batteries since he altered them and he agreed to voluntarily leave the batteries with TSA for proper safe disposal.
“This type of incident demonstrates the skill of our TSA officers in identifying possible dangerous items that could potentially cause a catastrophic event,” said John Essig, TSA’s Deputy Federal Security Director for the airport. “We saw critical thinking on the part of two TSA officers in knowing that the components of the device they detected could have resulted in a tragic outcome and contacting one of our explosives experts to confirm their suspicions. This was a good catch and goes to the point that our workforce is skilled at identifying prohibited items and items that should not be carried onto aircrafts.”